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2010 In Review - Music
2010 may well be the slowest year I've had this decade in terms of new music. Perhaps all of the concert-going and CD-buying finally caught up with me, and I just needed a break. Or maybe it's due to my more limited free time, now, and with that lack of free time comes less time spent on message boards and talking to various far-flung friends, my two main sources of new music. Whatever the case, I feel like any "Album of the Year" I might anoint is more of a, "well, there's nothing else at the top of the list, so I guess these guys get it," than a, "holy shit, this is new and amazing and must be listened to." Take it as such.

Fences - Fences
This is as close as '10 gets to a revelation, and is perhaps the only new band that I picked up this year. I saw Fences open for Mark Kozelek in San Francisco, and I fell in love with them - or more accurately, him, since it's effectively a one-man project (but when I type it out like that, it sounds wrong) - immediately. I bought the EP, and it's rough around the edges, but it's brilliant in spots, and the potential is there, so I figured that the album proper, when released, would be a layup for Album of the Year. Not so. I haven't gotten a chance to review the album, which I should do, because I'm a bit confused on what to think of it (and I'm also short on time). The link above points to the EP review, half of which is on the self-titled debut album. I guess the most succinct thing I can say about Fences the band is that they / he writes excellent, emotional, and introspective indie pop rock songs that aren't at all constrained by that label, and the most succinct thing that I can say about Fences the album is that it's a great album, but between the EP and the live show, I knew Fences can do better.

The National - High Violet
This one wins my No-Brainer-Excellent-Album of the Year award. The National are at the peak of their game, and I don't imagine that it surprises anyone that High Violet is awesome. It's different, but it's not really different enough to be a revelation, which makes me feel like it really doesn't require much attention or praise. If you know The National, you knew that this was going to be great. If you don't know The National, well, what the fuck? It is perhaps the highest praise one can give a band to say that an incredible album from them is no surprise at all.

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
The Age of Adz is almost the inverse of High Violet. Where we all knew High Violet would be awesome, we all figured Age of Adz would be, but weren't quite sure. Where High Violet wasn't quite a revelation but was different, Adz is effectively a reinvention of Sufjan Stevens. Perhaps more importantly, though, where High Violet is an album that I think is great and listen to as often as I would a masterpiece, the Age of Adz is an album that I think is incredible but listen to as often as if I thought it were just okay. I mean, I can thoroughly respect every aspect of Adz, and I know that saying this is nigh equivalent to handing over my hipster-critic badge, but I preferred Sufjan Stevens when he was a folk singer.

Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises
Admiral Fell Promises gets the "I listen to it more than it probably deserves" award of the year, owing in no small part to Mark Kozelek's subtly incredible finger picking. He doesn't play much flashy stuff, but goddamn can he ever pick an incredible line while singing. This is the first studio Kozelek album to essentially mimic his one-or-two-guitars live format, which I'm still not sure if I like or not on a studio album. Still, the song writing is excellent, the songs are trademark Kozelek world-weary sorrow, and the guitar playing is top notch. The man-and-his-acoustic format makes the album seem a little less dynamic to me than if it had varied instrumentation, but still, I listen to this one more than my critical assessment of it might dictate that I should.

Hammock - Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghost
I never really did a proper review for this album, either, and looking back at the blurb I gave it, it appears the album has grown on me. It's perfect winter music, an ambient thing of guitar swells and string sections that feels like an audio cocoon. As with everything on the list, it won't blow your mind, but it is a quality ambient album.

Recent additions

Ni no Kuni - Worst. Demo. Ever.

Tales of Graces - Why Must JRPGs Have Such Dumb Writing?

Xenoblade Chronicles - Why Must JRPGs Have Such Dumb Writing?

The Mistake That is Inferno and the Auction House

Diablo 3 - Improvements, Changes, and Problems

Glen Cook - Chronicles of the Black Company

Dark Souls

Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

Explosions in the Sky - Live 4/11/11